Hop into the garden with your little ones this season with our collection of over 50 hands-on spring gardening activities for kids! From growing seedlings and planting vegetables, to recycled DIY kids’ gardening tools, mud play, and flower art – loads of fresh ideas to help your kids enjoy the garden!
Of all the smells in the world, few have the power to transport me back to childhood like the smells of stirring dirt and “fresh” ozone that come with the first spring rain. Before I even notice the gentle tapping on the roof, I’m right back in my tiny galoshes and green, whale-lined raincoat, anxiously waiting for my Montessori teachers to throw open the doors to the school gardens for the first wonderfully muddy excursion of the season. Before spring has even arrived, my nose has primed me for a good tromp around the yard and digging in the dirt.
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My childhood March, April, and Mays were awash in spring gardening experiences. From potting spring pansies and planting vegetable seeds, picking rocks out of the spring beds my parents worked on, and digging the little hole for the spruce seedlings we received at school on Arbor Day.
I have so many wonderful memories of playing out in the garden come spring, and what I didn’t realize at the time was that was that while I was mucking around in the mud, I was also developing scads of skills. Learning about organisms, habitats, and life processes in the garden helped me connect to and care for the environment. It cultivated a sense of responsibility – not just to tend to our natural spaces, but also to continue learning about them.
Spring gardens are magical places, full of new life and little mysteries just waiting to be discovered. They present endless learning opportunities, many of which are right at a kids-eye level. My memories of spring days outside in the garden were the impetus for gathering this collection of kids’ gardening activities you can try with your little ones.
It’s a compilation that honors all of spring’s best qualities, with ways to help your kids enjoy the bright new blossoms, fresh growth, and even the muddiness! Spring rarely arrives on time where I live, so all of these hand-picked activities were chosen specifically because they can easily move with your kids from the indoors to the outdoors as spring blossoms and temperatures rise.
HOW TO PREP FOR GARDENING WITH KIDS
Here are a few ideas to help make your kids’ spring garden play safe and enjoyable…
- Keep an eye on the weather. A season defined by tumultuous temperatures, springtime can bring wildly unpredictable weather. Make sure your little ones aren’t caught by surprise in the garden by watching the forecast and being aware of rapidly changing conditions.
- Dress for mess. One of the BEST parts of gardening is embracing the dirt! A garden smock, apron, or even an old teeshirt, child-sized gardening gloves, and of course a good set of rubber boots or garden clogs can be extremely helpful.
- Find the correct tools. From watering cans to rakes, having the right kid-sized tools is important in making a garden feel inviting, helping little ones learn gardening skills, and teaching a sense of responsibility and ownership. I’ve made a collection of some of my favorite kids’ gardening tools here that you can use as a reference to add to your stock of kid-specific gardening supplies.
- Discuss plant safety. Backyard gardening presents a great opportunity to help your kids understand the difference between edible and non-edible (or even toxic) plants. Which plants in your own yard or neighborhood to stay away from? This is also a great time to remind your kids that as much as we’d like to nibble right out of the fresh lettuce pot, washing edible produce thoroughly before sampling is important.
- Define separate areas for edible produce and non-edible flowers and plants. Especially when gardening with kids, it’s essential to have edible plantings and non-edibles (flowers, etc) in separate, well-defined spaces that are clearly labeled. Young plants just coming up out of the ground can look very similar – for example, a daffodil not yet blooming looks quite a bit like a garlic scape, as do the bulbs themselves. Though a spring favorite of mine, all parts of a daffodil are toxic, so you wouldn’t want a child (or adult) mistakenly picking it out of the garden for a little nibble.
- Check garden areas for safety hazards. Even if you’re just in your own backyard, it’s always good to quickly sweep your gardening area for any safety hazards. A quick once-over for things like rusty nails, pieces of broken pots, etc. will give you peace of mind.
- Practice organic gardening. Gardening with kids gives you yet another good reason to avoid chemicals and toxic sprays.
- Be mindful of allergies. As beautiful as spring is, seasonal allergies abound – and not just for adults! Monitor for allergy symptoms like excessive sneezing, itching, or rashes. Remind your little ones to avoid touching faces and eyes. Leave pollens, molds, and dust outside by taking a quick rinse-off and changing into fresh clothes after gardening.
- Watch the sun. This time of year, when the temperature is still a bit chilly but the sun is shining, I can easily spend enough time in the garden that I end up with pink sunburned cheeks. When out in the garden with kids, remember to provide shade, wear hats and sunscreens, and (as always!) hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
PLANTING BASICS WITH KIDS
Just introducing your kids to gardening? Simple tasks and easy, fun planting activities are a great way to encourage kids to get their hands dirty and embrace the joy of growing a garden!
- Assign your kids a small existing potted plant that they can use to practice general garden maintenance. Tasks like weeding, watering, rinsing off aphids, deadheading, and general clean-up are great kids’ garden chores.
- DIY your own recycled soda bottle kids watering can.
- Plant and grow seedlings in recycled containers.
- Start an easy DIY tin can herb garden with your kids.
- Grow grass caterpillars (how fun are these?!).
- Make a leprechaun garden, fairy garden, or grow a unicorn (sprinkled with plant-healthy DIY salt glitter “seeds”).
- Make a mason jar terrarium.
- Turn a juice carton into a mini cress garden.
- Organize Montessori-style garden and planting trays.
- Plant eggheads.
- Experiment with planting birdseed.
- Plant a tree or adopt a tree or garden plant – observe and record changes.
- Use the opportunity to practice cleaning up – from tidying up planting sites to rinsing off hands and bodies.
MAKING GARDENING SPACES FOR KIDS
Creating a garden for kids can be as simple as turning an empty plot of land into a safe area with some grass and flowers, or designing a garden that has many different areas where children can play. Here are some simple ideas to help you create engaging, colorful kid-inspiring garden spaces in which your little ones will love spending time...
- Set up a space for a small container garden (use recycled supplies).
- Make garden gnome plant markers.
- Decorate the garden with kid-painted rocks like butterfly rocks, a koi rock pond, Kandinsky-inspired rocks, or a rock family.
- Use garden scraps to make lovely, natural twig-wrapped flower pots.
- Decorate the garden with melted crayon butterfly garden ornaments.
- Install a simple water feature (I’ve found that solar-powered birth bath fountains are an incredibly easy way to add a water element to your garden).
- Carve out a spot for a special kid-themed garden – like this pizza garden (part of PBS’ amazing Think Garden series for kids).
- Construct a DIY bean pole tent for a magical living hideaway.
- Let kids decorate their gardens with stick and rock sculptures they can embellish with washable DIY sidewalk paint.
- Find a special spot for a kid-made bee bath or hang a DIY bird’s nest helper from a nearby branch.
KIDS SPRING FLOWER ACTIVITIES
Flowers aren’t just beautiful, they’re fascinating! Here are a few activities you can do with your children to celebrate the arrival of spring beauties…
- Grow sunflowers in pots.
- Grow spring flowers from seed with these enchanting recycled fairy greenhouse seed starters for kids.
- Make your own seed paper (with native seeds!).
- Practice simple flower arranging and turn recycled building blocks into DIY kid-safe stem vases.
- Stroll through fresh blooms while gathering items to create aromatic playdough fairy forests.
- Explore patterns, texture, and color in spring flowers with flower mandalas or a 3D flower suncatcher box.
- Pound your way to beautiful (colorful!) plant pigment discoveries with hammered nature garden art.
- Enjoy a spring garden sensory experience with fragrant, colorful flower “soup”.
- Take your kids on a spring flower scavenger hunt.
- Make dandelion crowns (a late spring classic!).
GROWING VEGETABLES WITH KIDS
Growing vegetables with kids is a great way to teach them about where our food comes from, explore sustainable practices, and instill a sense of accomplishment when their seeds grow into something they can eat. As a bonus, it can also boost their interest in eating vegetables…!
- DIY upcycled toilet paper seedling pots and painted stone garden markers.
- Tips for vegetable gardening with kids.
- Make a kid-sized starter garden, picking vegetables that are easy for kids to grow.
- Take a trip to the farmer’s market (you might even want to make your own veggie-printed market tote for fresh finds!).
- Help them plan and cook meals with the produce harvested from your gardens.
EXPLORE GARDEN HABITATS WITH KIDS
Gardens provide lovely homes for all sorts of flora and fauna. Use these activities to explore the connection between garden habitats, living organisms of all shapes and sizes, and our ecosystems.
- DIG! From decaying plant matter to interesting bugs, there are all sorts of things to find in the soil.
- Work together to make your garden wildlife-friendly, then observe the visitors!
- Pitch a tent in the garden to create a temporary bird-watching hide.
- Make a DIY bug observation box or scout out the first mini-beasts of the season with our free printable insect scavenger hunt.
- Build, decorate and hang a real birdhouse or bug hotel.
- Make simple DIY frozen bird feeders, icy frozen bird feeder ornaments, or an easy bee bath.
- Cultivate a worm farm or make a worm composting bin.
KIDS SPRING GARDEN PLAY
Play is a wonderful way for kids to explore gardening activities – especially at times when they can’t get outside or are waiting for things to grow. Here are a few different kinds of garden-themed play activities – from small worlds to scavenger hunts – that will help your kids pass the time while they wait for their real gardens to grow!
- Planting seeds sensory tray.
- Mud play! Make Mud kitchens or mud paint.
- Go on a garden scavenger hunt!
- Play landscape designer and make your own peace gardens.
- Make a juice carton birdhouse for pretend garden play.
- Make a DIY “plantable” felt garden box.
- Using supplies you already have, set up a cool kids garden center or pretend flower shop for dramatic play.
- Play paleontologist with a backyard dinosaur dig.
For more kids’ outdoor activity ideas, learn about Shinrin-Yoku and simple ways to start practicing with your kids, grab a free printable bug scavenger hunt, or make a DIY nature explorer kit from a shoebox and recycled supplies.